Open invitation

German minister offers closer trade links with UK

Berliner Dom
German-UK trade has fallen since Brexit

Britain has been invited by the German finance minister to engage in “new steps” to improve trading relations with the EU in what will be seen as a more conciliatory tone from Europe’s biggest economy.

The UK government has responded positively to the opportunity offered by Christian Lindner who said in an interview: “If you want to intensify your trade relationship with the EU – call us.”

Mr Lindner is the leader of the German liberals, part of the ruling coalition led by the centre-left SPD of Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

During the discussion on the margins of the IMF and World Bank’s annual meetings in Marrakech, Mr Lindner said that the UK had a “standing invitation” on future talks aimed at reducing trade barriers, or “obstacles in daily business life”.

“In the daily life of German corporates, there are new obstacles since Brexit… I don’t think [the] United Kingdom is benefiting from Brexit,” he told a TV interviewer.

“We really appreciate the United Kingdom and its values, its people… and I would really, really appreciate it if we can intensify [the trade relationship] again,” he added.

According to the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce, German goods exports to the UK were 14.1% less in 2022 than in 2016 – the year of the Brexit referendum.

The UK slipped from third most important export partner to eighth. Combining trade both ways, the UK is no longer in the top 10 of German trade partners.

One of the most immediate new trade barriers could be an imminent imposition of tariffs on the trade of some electric vehicles, which do not qualify for the post-Brexit Trade and Co-operation Agreement with the EU.

The UK is now regarded as a “third party” country – one that is outside the EU, and therefore outside the single market and the customs union. Businesses on both sides complain that this has led to huge extra paperwork.

Mr Lindner said: “If [the] United Kingdom decides for a special relationship with the European Union and our single market, you are invited… But at the moment, the United Kingdom decided for its own way and so these are these obstacles in the daily life. I regret it”.

Reducing post-Brexit red tape was part of the prime minister’s Windsor Agreement over Northern Ireland trade rules.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer is keen to build on a close working relationship he has built with Chancellor Scholz, and now wants to renegotiate the Brexit deal to make it work better.

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